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Our story

The Pura Aventura story

21 years of bumpy beauty

From a chance meeting in Patagonia in 1995 to our pioneering action on carbon to a fridge magnet collection to be proud of, ours is a story like no other.

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The Pura Aventura story starts way back in the Patagonian summer of 1995 and a chance meeting between an Englishman, a Spaniard and a Basque down in Chile's Torres del Paine...

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Having missed the boat across the lake one windy afternoon, Thomas Power (right) and his poncho sought refuge in one of the park's ranger stations, where he'd stumble upon a new friend...

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Waiting in the hut was Diego Martín, who divided his time here between guiding hikers in Paine, mucking in on friend's estancias and enjoying a few cold ones in the 'guide' bars of Puerto Natales...

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The pair hit it off and walked nearly every trail together. Diego soon introduced Thomas to another Paine guide Xabi Etxarri, completing our gang of three slightly ragtag and wind-battered amigos.

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Xabi would go on to write the manual which trains the new Torres del Paine park guides. Before that though, came the small matter of Pura Aventura and our very first brochure, created in 1999...

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The idea of Pura was to create 'active holidays in comfort' in the (then) remote places the trio had fallen in love with. Admittedly, southern Chile and northern Spain was a niche combination for the time...

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So whilst our intrepid trio weren't able to ditch their battered boots and pitiful ponchos just yet, the idea began to resonate with travellers looking to indulge their more adventurous sides.

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Even so, these were our 'donkey years' - a learning curve made all the steeper by a lack of business experience. It was the quality of the holidays and the loyalty of our clients that pulled us through.

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Eventually, our band of three began to grow. Before joining in 2006, Sarah's pesto sauce was unceremoniously spat out by the tasting chef on BBC's Masterchef, ending her quest for kitchen glory...

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Food's loss was our gain though. Sarah's eye for detail and ability to organise complex holidays directly with our local partners has been the bedrock for our successes over the last 15 years...

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Our team has travelled extensively to pioneer new ways of sharing our destinations. Here, Thomas becomes the '80th or so' person to visit this Atacama lagoon discovered by our guide on Google Maps.

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With more people travelling, we've also had to find creative ways to share popular places at their quietest. Arriving at Machu Picchu on foot with barely another soul around is one we're proud of.

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As well as travelling to develop new holidays, we're so lucky to be able to share the special places we love with our families. Watching our children confidentally exploring exotic places never gets old.

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Diego and María work out of our Spain office at the foot of the Picos de Europa hills. The WiFi is patchy, but the beach is close, the views fantastic and sometimes wandering cows come to say hello.

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Over the Atlantic, Camilo - or Mr Atacama as he is known for his extensive experience guiding in the north - heads up our Chile office with his trademark positivity and good humour.

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We can't be sure, but we doubt there's a duo who know the trails and villages of the Sacred Valley better than Pura Peru's Gabby and Pepe. In fact, many of the people you'll meet here are their close friends.

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One such person is Mercedes from the local chichería. Since her smile beamed from our stand at a London travel show in 2020 she's had the upper hand in a friendly fame rivalry with Nilda...

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Nilda's own smile shone from the cover of our Peru guide in 2019. Her fame might have been one-upped by Mercedes, but as the head of a brilliant female weaving co-operative, she's doing ok.

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We are constantly inspired by our partners from across the Pura world. In Ecuador, Rocío broke down barriers to become the first female guide in the region and wants others to follow in her footseps.

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And we're inspired by the widlife too. Diego spent many years volunteering with the Bearded Vulture Foundation in northern Spain, returning these majestic but endangered creatures to the skies.

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On the wildlife theme, we were honoured to host Richard Woollocombe - the man who filmed the famous Galapagos snakes and iguanas footage - to speak to our guests in 2018.

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And on the subject of speaking, Thomas took his place alongside industry experts to discuss ways to combat overtourism at the BBC Countryfile Live event at Blenheim Palace later that year.

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2019 saw us hit supermarket shelves in partnership with our friends at Cafédirect. Making a pot of their finest is often first point of order each day at the Pura office in Brighton.

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In 2019 we also created our first book. With tales of hitchhiking gauchos, Nicaraguan chicken buses and the last Picos cheesemakers, The Pothole celebrates all the we love about our world.

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We're very proud of our collection of wonderfully crap fridge magnets. It all started with this gloriously misspelled effort found by Greta in Brussels. It's gone from strength to strength since.

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Magnets aside, our proudest moment was hosting pioneering conservationist Kristine Tompkins for the official European launch of Chile's Route of Parks tourism project in London in 2019...

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As Kristine explained to BBC presenter Joe Crowley, by visiting the parks you help create the financial incentive for locals to protect vast swathes of Patagonian wilderness over the long-term.

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In September 2019 we celebrated our 20th anniversary by immortalising our three co-founders Thomas (plus dog), Diego (plus Bearded Vulture) and Xabi (plus poetry book) in cake topper form.

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In 2019 we began working with community development project Taking Root to fund economically viable tropical forest and balance all carbon produced on our holidays, not by 100%, but by 160%.

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In early 2020, before the world was turned on its head, Thomas introduced the Route of Parks and his beloved Patagonia to a packed audience at the Destinations tavel show in London.

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For all of us, 2020 was a year like no other. Through difficult times the support of our clients, past, present and future, was entirely humbling and a vital part of keeping our spirits up...

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And never before were our relationships with our partners, many of whom we consider close friends, so important. We stood side-by-side through difficult moments and came through 2020 together.

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Which trusted tour operator
During the covid-19 pandemic, Pura Aventura was praised in the national press coverage for our straightforward, no nonsense approach to customer service and financial protection.

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In 2020 we were far from idle. As well as creating the new website which you are reading and many new trips you might take, we became the one of the UK's first travel companies to certify as B Corp.

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Ours has been a winding road with many a lesson learned. But our mission never changed: sharing the right places with the right people. This picture of a Pura client sums up the joy of doing just that.

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Which trusted tour operator
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Our story

Pura Aventura has been inspiring people to travel to Spain, Portugal and Latin America since 1999 with active holidays made exceptional, personal and planet positive.

It all started with a chance meeting of a Brit, a Spaniard and a Basque in Patagonia’s Torres del Paine National Park. After weeks of hiking across the park the Spaniard, Diego, stayed on as a park guard, the Basque, Xabi, went back to trailblazing river routes into the park and the Brit, Tom, took the slow road home by hitchhiking the 3,300km back to Santiago airport.

As Diego learned how to protect the precious ecosystems and Xabi worked with visitors to deliver the best experiences, Tom was experiencing the kindness of strangers. Each, in their own way, accumulating a debt of gratitude. Pura Aventura was established precisely to share places which have moved us and to do so in a way which protects and benefits them. Working directly with a huge number of partners overseas allows us to achieve this while also creating truly unique and special holidays. There isn’t very much on this site which can be found elsewhere. This is what we mean by exceptional.

Over the past 21 years, we have gradually expanded out from Patagonia to offer more of Latin America as well as Spain, Portugal and Antarctica. However, we remain, at heart, a family business. Admittedly, it’s a modern, pan-European blended affair, but it feels like a family. Our community absolutely extends to our partners overseas and to our clients, many of whom we count as friends. When we share a place, it is more usually the case that we are brokering an introduction between our guests and our partners. This is what we mean by personal.

In late 2019 Pura Aventura hosted the European launch of Patagonia’s Route of Parks, the world’s most ambitious conservation tourism project. From Puerto Montt to Cape Horn, it covers 2,700km of southern South America, 28 million acres protected in 17 national parks, encompassing 24 ecosystems, 200 species of birds and mammals and home to 60 communities. It is exactly where, and why, Pura Aventura started. Patagonia is second only to the Amazon in terms of carbon sequestration from our atmosphere, preserving it through thoughtful small-scale tourism is of vital importance. This is what we mean by planet positive.

What we do, how and where we do it all still speaks to that original debt of gratitude sparked by the kindness of strangers, the excitement of discovery and the beauty of nature.*

*If you are imagining an office thick with incense and whale song, don’t. We may be a values driven organisation but that doesn’t stop us being diverse, smart and experienced. It also doesn’t stop us laughing, a lot. Pura Aventura is a business built around delivering great value to its clients whilst also looking after our team, our partners and our planet.

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